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NIMAS FAQ

Have questions about the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard (NIMAS)? We're happy to help with answers to the most commonly asked questions about NIMAS and related topics such as the NIMAC, state and local agency requirements, and the provision of accessible formats from NIMAS filesets

NIMAS & NIMAC

What do the acronyms "NIMAS" and "NIMAC" mean?

NIMAS is the acronym for the National Instructional Materials Accessibility Standard. The NIMAS is a technical standard used by publishers to prepare “electronic files” of print and certain digital materials that can then be converted to alternate formats for use by students with disabilities. 

NIMAC is the acronym for the National Instructional Materials Access Center. The NIMAC is an online repository of NIMAS filesets.

Where in IDEA 2004 is NIMAS referenced?

Part B

  • Section 612(a)(23)
  • Section 613(a)(6)

Part D

  • Section 674(e)

Title III

  • Section 306

What are "coordinating agencies" and other frequently used terms?

  • Coordinating agencies are those state and local education agencies that have chosen to coordinate with the NIMAC by directing publishers to provide NIMAS-conformant files to the NIMAC.
  • In this document, an authorized user is an agent of a coordinating agency with access to the NIMAC database and may download NIMAS-conformant files in accordance with established agreements.
  • Authorized entities are referred to in the Chafee Amendment and are defined therein as: "'authorized entity' means a nonprofit organization or a governmental agency that has a primary mission to provide specialized services relating to training, education, or adaptive reading or information access needs of blind or other persons with disabilities."
  • Accessible media producers (AMPs) produce accessible formats exclusively for use by eligible persons. Accessible media producers are eligible to download files directly from the NIMAC as agents of authorized users.

What are NIMAS-conformant files?

The NIMAS outlines a set of consistent and valid XML-based source files created by K–12 curriculum publishers or other content producers. These well-structured source files can be used to create accessible formats of print and certain digital instructional materials. The full set of files includes XML content files, a package file, images, and a PDF file of the title page (or whichever page contains ISBN and copyright information).

Do schools, classrooms, and students use NIMAS-conformant source files directly?

That outcome is not intended. In the majority of circumstances, NIMAS-conformant source files will not be distributed at the classroom, school, or even district level, since these files require additional enhancements to make them appropriate for student use. Most SEAs and LEAs will need to designate an authorized user.

Why are the NIMAS and the NIMAC necessary?

Having consistent and high-quality source files available from a central repository improves the quality and timely delivery of these materials to qualified students.

What curriculum materials are covered by the NIMAS?

Certain print and digital instructional materials are covered by the NIMAS. IDEA 2004 indicates that the term "print instructional materials" includes printed textbooks and related printed core materials that are written and published primarily for use in elementary school and secondary school instruction, and are required by a SEA or LEA for use by students. In May of 2020, the U.S. Department of Education clarified that the term ‘‘print instructional materials,’’ with regard to the scope of NIMAS in IDEA 2004, includes digital instructional materials if those materials can be produced in valid NIMAS format. Learn more about digital instructional materials and NIMAS.

The NIMAC carries out its responsibilities for those instructional materials that are made available by publishers for use in elementary and secondary classrooms. 

What happens if a publisher does not hold the electronic rights for all of the content contained in instructional materials?

As long as a publisher possesses print rights, the material is needed by an SEA or LEA, and the files will be used to produce accessible formats for qualifying students, the publishers are given an exemption to copyright law to facilitate the transfer of NIMAS-conformant files directly to the NIMAC. This copyright protection applies only to the files provided to the NIMAC and not, for example, to files that may be provided directly to SEAs and LEAs.

Why does the Association of American Publishers support NIMAS?

When NIMAS filesets are provided to the NIMAC by publishers and then used for the preparation of accessible student-ready versions, the need to create multiple digital formats of each textbook and deliver them to various agencies is significantly reduced. Publishers produce each text in a single file format and deliver it to one location—the NIMAC—for distribution to authorized entities and for further enhancement by authorized users.

Who is required to adopt the NIMAS?

SEAs are required to adopt the NIMAS. Although the term "adopt" is not defined by the statute, it is generally understood to mean that these agencies will commit to improving the systems most likely to ensure that students who need accessible formats will receive the accessible formats they need in a timely manner. The specification is but one part of a system.

The NIMAC

What is the NIMAC and what does it do?

The NIMAC is a central national repository established at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) that contains NIMAS filesets. It features an automated system for allowing publishers to deposit NIMAS-conformant files within the repository. The files are checked to confirm that they are valid NIMAS-conformant files, and the files are cataloged in a web-based database. Those who have been authorized for access have user identifications and passwords. These authorized users are able to search the NIMAC database and download directly the file(s) they need to convert to accessible formats for those students who are in elementary and secondary schools and have qualifying disabilities.

What does it mean for an SEA or LEA to opt out of the NIMAC?

SEAs and LEAs are not required to coordinate with the NIMAC. If they choose to opt out, state or local education agencies are required to provide assurances that qualifying students will receive high-quality accessible materials in a timely manner.

What are the advantages of opting in to the NIMAC?

It is recommended that all SEAs and LEAs opt in to the NIMAC in order facilitate the development of a production and delivery infrastructure that is cost effective, efficient, and appropriate to the needs of students throughout the United States who need accessible formats.

Coordinating with the NIMAC —

  • provides instructional materials options beyond those currently available: a larger selection of options to choose from and a wide range of alternate formats;
  • maximizes the availability and effectiveness of student-ready versions created by authorized entities;
  • supports copyright indemnification for publishers, SEAs, and LEAs;
  • provides economies of scale;
  • results in higher quality content (since source files are provided by publishers);
  • eliminates duplication of efforts by providing access to a centralized database;
  • facilitates the development of a national database of student-ready accessible versions created by authorized entities; and
  • provides these benefits without interrupting other systems that serve students.

How do SEAs and LEAs work with the NIMAC?

To coordinate with the national repository, SEAs and/or LEAs —

  • officially choose to act as a coordinating agency with the NIMAC,
  • include language in contracts with publishers directing them to send NIMAS-conformant files of elementary and secondary school textbooks and related core instructional materials to the NIMAC,
  • identify authorized users who may obtain files directly from the NIMAC,
  • arrange to have files converted to accessible formats by using their own resources or contracting with others, and
  • be encouraged to share information about the availability of textbooks in accessible format through APH's Louis Database in order to avoid duplication of effort.

We encourage SEAs to serve as a conduit between LEAs and the NIMAC.

SEA and LEA Requirements

What is required of state and local education agencies?

In addition to ensuring that all students who need accessible versions of core curriculum materials receive them in a timely manner, SEAs and LEAs play an important role in obligating publishers to submit essential source materials to the NIMAC. This is accomplished by contract or by including appropriate language in purchase orders that require publishers to submit NIMAS-conformant files to the NIMAC, or provide assurances that they have already done so, for a specific title and version that is to be purchased. See NIMAS in Purchase Orders & Contracts for sample language.

Are there other options available to SEAs and LEAs?

In keeping with existing practice, some state and local education agencies may meet NIMAS-related requirements contained in IDEA 2004 by contracting with curriculum publishers directly to purchase accessible, student-ready versions. See Communicating Accessibility Requirements for best practices.

If a school contracts with a community college for advanced placement classes, is the LEA or community college responsible for a student who is eligible for NIMAS materials?

AP classes are classes provided for secondary school credit. They also may allow students to earn postsecondary credit (but generally only after they receive a sufficiently high score on a national, standardized test in that subject).

NIMAS is only a standard for preparation of text files—it does not assign responsibility to provide accessible instructional materials to any entity.

Under 612(a)(23) and 613(a)(6) [300.172 and 300.210] the SEA and LEA have the responsibility to provide print instructional materials (and digital instructional materials that can be produced in valid NIMAS format per a May 2020 NOI) to eligible persons in a timely manner. This responsibility would extend to all courses that the SEA and LEA offer for elementary school or secondary school credit, even if they are provided by another entity through a contract or other arrangement with the SEA or LEA.

Provision of Accessible Formats from NIMAS Filesets

What disabilities qualify a student to be served with NIMAS-derived accessible materials?

IDEA 2004 includes a definition of students who may be provided with accessible textbooks and related core instructional materials created with NIMAS-conformant files from the NIMAC. That definition, at the time of the legislation, was "blind or other persons with print disabilities." "Blind or other persons with print disabilities" meant children served under IDEA who may qualify in accordance with the act entitled, "An Act to provide books for the adult blind," approved March 31, 1931 (2 U.S.C. 135a; 46 Stat. 1487) to receive books and other publications produced in specialized formats [674(e)(3)(A)].

In December 2019, Congress updated the statute, “An Act to provide books for the adult blind.” In order to provide consistency with the Marrakesh Treaty Implementation Act (MTIA), Congress revised the statute to include some of the new terminology that the MTIA had incorporated into section 121 of the Copyright Law. As a result, the term “blind or other persons with print disabilities” was replaced by the term, “eligible person.” 

An eligible person means:

(A)n individual who, regardless of any other disability— 

(A) is blind;

(B) has a visual impairment or perceptual or reading disability that cannot be improved to give visual function substantially equivalent to that of a person who has no such impairment or disability and so is unable to read printed works to substantially the same degree as a person without an impairment or disability; or  

(C) is otherwise unable, through physical disability, to hold or manipulate a book or to focus or move the eyes to the extent that would be normally acceptable for reading. 

The National Library Service authorizes the following professionals to certify a student as an eligible person:

Doctor of medicine, doctor of osteopathy, ophthalmologist, optometrist, psychologist, registered nurse, therapist, and professional staff of hospitals, institutions, and public or welfare agencies (such as an educator, a social worker, case worker, counselor, rehabilitation teacher, certified reading specialist, school psychologist, superintendent, or librarian).

Note: To receive accessible materials derived from NIMAS files, a student must be served under IDEA and also be certified as an eligible person. 

Who creates accessible "student-ready" versions of materials from NIMAS-conformant files?

Under contract with coordinating agencies, accessible, student-ready versions of textbooks and related core instructional materials are created from NIMAS-conformant files by

  • National third-party authorized entities such as Bookshare, American Printing House for the Blind (APH), and Learning Ally; 
  • State instructional materials resource centers; 
  • Software developers and file conversion services;
  • Curriculum publishers; K–12 curriculum publishers may produce accessible alternate-format versions for direct sale to SEAs and LEAs. (This workflow is referred to as the "market model").
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